Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for Trinity Sunday (Year A)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

Regarding Trinity Sunday and the Doctrine of the Trinity, you might also want to take a look at Random Reflections on the Trinity as well as Dance of the Trinity.

GENESIS 1:1-2:4a
For once, the lectionary prescribes that the First Reading of the Day begins where the Bible begins, “In the beginning” at Genesis 1:1.  This is also, perhaps, one of the longest Readings in the lectionary outside of Lent and the Passion narrative.  Am I stating the obvious when I note that this is the “first” creation account?  I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.  Thus, I read Genesis 1:1-2:4a as a mythopoeic reflection on human origins rather than a scientific explanation of them.  Can we read and interpret this passage without reference to Genesis 2:4b and following?  How does reading this on Trinity Sunday influence our understanding and interpretation of the passage and how does this passage inform our understanding of the Trinity?
1:1 What translation do you prefer, “when God created” or “when God began to create?”?What difference does the translation make? What was before the beginning?
1:2 What is a “wind from God”? How else might we translate the Hebrew word sometimes translated “wind”?
1:3 This is more or less Creation ex nihilo!  Can we read this without also thinking of the prologue of John? Did God create a wave, a particle, or a string? Note that God creates simply by saying. What does this suggest about the creative word as well as the power of naming?
1:4 What would have happened if God saw that the light was not good? Does the light being good automatically mean that the darkness is bad or evil?
1:5 Note that God is the one who names.
1:6 Are you familiar with this three tiered cosmology? What and where is this dome? How do we deal with this antiquated cosmology?
1:7 God seems to like separating things.  See 1:4.
1:8 Again God names.  See 1:5.
1:9 If I understand the most recent scientific thinking about the beginnings of the earth, there was once just one large land mass or supercontinent before it broke apart, but one should not use science to “prove” Scripture, otherwise we will end up defending scripture against science if the science changes.
1:10 I wonder what criteria God used to determine “good”?
1:11-12 Note that vegetation precedes animal life.
1:13 Would there have been time, or a way to tell time, if there had been no evening and morning?
1:14-15 According to the three tiered cosmology, these lights are under the waters above them. Here we have the roots of both astrology and astronomy.
1:16 So where did the light come from in day one if God did not create the Sun until day four? Does it make a difference that we now know that the moon is not a light but reflects the light of the sun?
1:17-19 These verses seem somewhat redundant following 1:4-16.
1:20 Creatures appear after vegetation in this account.  How is this different compared to the second account of creation beginning in Genesis 2:4b?
1:21 I wonder what is meant by “great sea monster”?  Could this verse have referred to whales, Leviathan, the Kraken, or Nessie?
1:22 Who, or what, are told to be fruitful and multiply? Is this the first blessing?
1:23 We are now at the end of the fifth day and humans still have not appeared.
1:24 Living creatures on land appear after living creatures in the water and the air.
1:24-25 Note that sea creatures and birds are told to be fruitful and multiply in 1:22, but here, animals of the earth are NOT told that.
1:26 Where did this “us” come from and how do we deal with it?  There is that “dominion” word that has caused us so many environmental problems and which we will encounter again in Psalm 8:6.
1:27 What does it mean to be created Imago Dei, male and female?
1:28 Note that with the exception of 1:22, we are not told that God blessed any other creatures or parts of creation other than humans.  In light of how we have historically interpreted and applied the admonition to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion,” I think this has been more of a curse than a blessing as far as we “exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.” How shall we deal with the “be fruitful and multiply” admonition in light of the threat of overpopulation and right to life issues?
1:29-30 It sounds like we have been given plants to eat, but not animals. Maybe God is a vegan!
1:31 Note that we progress from good to very good!
2:1 Scientifically speaking, are the heaven and the earth ever finished?
2:2-3 Why does God need to rest?  Does God tire? What did God do on the eighth day?
2:4a How does this verse add anything to what proceeded?  What is the meaning of “generations?”

8:1 “O LORD” = Tetragrammaton.  Even though I do not always point it out, be aware that when LORD appears in all upper case letters, it is really the name of God that appears in the text. Are Christians bound by the Hebrew tradition of not pronouncing the majestic name of God? How shall we interpret this verse when we now know there is no “above” the heavens but rather a “beyond” the heavens; no up there but rather an out there?
8:2 What do babes and infants speak other than gibberish? What is a bulwark?
8:3-4 Is there a difference between “creating” and “establishing”? There is no finger of God in the first creation account, only the voice of God. Why am I thinking of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam? I will never forget my sense of awe and wonder the first time I looked through a telescope and saw for myself the rings of Saturn.  I think I have heard it said that the Hubble telescope enables us to look back through time to the first moments after creation.  Do images from the Hubble telescope in any sense show us the face of God? I am reminded of William Shakespeare's monologue in which Hamlet asks "What a piece of work is a man!"
8:5 What does it mean for humans to be a little lower than God? How are human crowned with glory and honor?
8:6 Need I say anything more about “dominion” other than that an ecological awareness forces us to abandon outdated understandings?  See my comments regarding Genesis 1:26.
8:7 Why are sheep and oxen, out of all the animals, named?
8:9 Is this simply a refrain?

2 CORINTHIANS 13:11-13
This short Second Reading and the short Gospel Reading compensates for the long First Reading.
13:11 What does Paul mean when he writes “put things in order?”  What was his appeal? Why are we often inclined to not agree? What does it mean to live in peace?
13:12 What is a “holy kiss”?  Who are the saints?
13:13 Is this verse, a Trinitarian blessing, the only reason this Reading appears on this day, Trinity Sunday? Does anything else in this reading really add anything to the mystery of the Trinity?

MATTHEW 28:16-20
This short Gospel Reading and the preceding short Second Reading compensates for the long First Reading.
28:16 Why are there only eleven disciples? Which mountain had Jesus directed them to?
28:17 Some of the eleven doubted?  I wonder which ones doubted and which ones did not. What or who did they doubt? Can one worship even when one doubts?
28:18 Who gave this authority to Jesus and when?
28:19 How does verse proceed from 28:17? Is this Trinitarian baptismal formula the only verse that commends this reading as appropriate for Trinity Sunday?
13:20 What had Jesus commanded the disciples? What and when is the end of the age?  What is an age?  When did the age begin?

I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

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